Lot with a view – Powell RiverTo build a house – you need a lot. Could be an in-town lot in a new subdivision, an ‘infill’ lot in an established area, a rural acreage or waterfront. Do you want the country lifestyle, or city lifestyle? Before picking plans, or colours – your first step is get a lot. As a builder we often have ‘first pick’ of lots in subdivisions. This is because the developer can sell the lots to builders with very little fuss or overhead. Take your time choosing your area, and your lot. This advice ‘take your time’ will be given many times. A house is likely the largest investment you’ll ever make, yet often home buyers spend much less time on a house purchase than they do in researching and test driving a new car.
The Three Rules: Location, Location, Location.
Comox Valley Areas
If you are new to the area you’ll need advice. If you know someone living here, ask them about the different parts of town. Your realtor is a good source of advice, not just a salesman. Here’s our tip, once you have selected a lot or area, spend some time there, you’re going to be living there a long time. What’s the traffic like at rush hour? Does you neighbour have roosters and chickens (the best time to find out is early morning, …not after you’ve bought the lot)? Talk to you future neighbours, hang around when school lets out, get a feel for the area.
The neighbours’ house!
Face south and soak in the sunshine – opps – your dream lot, and that house design you picked 3 years ago mean full winter sunlight only in your guest bathroom window and your kitchen faces north and over looks your neighbours’ lovely south facing bathroom window. Well sometimes you want what you want, but as a rule (a really big rule) at Nutmeg Homes we design each house to fit the lot. Sunshine and as much as we can manage is the goal, shade where it’s needed.
You should also consider view corridors, weather issues (snow, rain, wind etc). Landscaping, gardens, future buildings on neighbouring lots, even car headlights shining in your bedroom window at night should all have a bearing on your lot selection and eventual house design. The location and orientation of your home will have a major impact on the quality of life and the level of comfort you enjoy. The cost of having custom plans is about the same as a nice kitchen sink, at Nutmeg Homes it’s included in the build price. There is more information on home design in our Nutmeg Design section.
We All Live Downstream.
Comox water shedWater can have a really big effect on a building site; carefully examine – rain (falling and wind driven); underground flows; drainage (natural and storm run off systems) and fresh drinking water supplies. The Comox Valley has a rainforest climate, we get rain sometimes! If your perfect lot is in a flood plain, or has an underground stream running through it, or takes the full force of ocean rain and wind – plan ahead, not after the damage starts.
With an Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) house water infiltration issues become very minimal. Worst case scenario – you develop a leak – in a wood house you likely have a big problem, or a really big problem (structural failure). But an ICF structure will not mold, rot, crumble or fail, any water damage will only be cosmetic. This doesn’t mean we don’t flash/seal windows and other openings – we do.
Are You Being Served?
This is pretty basic information, and a general contractor deals with this stuff on every house, but if there is a pre-existing problem on the lot, it will likely cost the home owner, not the builder.
All ‘serviced’ lots have services – But where are they? Check all service connections before you start to build (or buy).
A serviced lot will have a potable water supply underground at its’ property line, there may be a water meter as well. Consider your landscaping needs as well as just supplying the house. (If you are not on metered water, you soon may be, please think about low water use landscaping!).
If you are going to need well water; drill your well before you start to build. It’s nice having water on site, and you will appreciate not having to tear down your house because you don’t have water, and the only other place to drill is where your living room is now located.
Storm and Sanitary Connections.
Storm drain to street connectionStorm and sanitary (sewage) connections are located underground and can affect the house design options. The height of these two connections generally determines the maximum depth that house can economically manage. If your basement is lower than the sewer connection then you will need to pump any bath or laundry drains up to above the sanitary drain, this can be done, but it’s an additional cost and a potential problem area.
If your basement (or crawlspace) needs to be below the storm connection then you’ve got a major problem. The drainage system that surrounds your house must drain into this connection, therefore the lowest point of the structure – the footings – must be above the connection with enough slope in the underground drainpipe for the water to flow into the storm drain system. Basements tend to be rarer in the Comox Valley than elsewhere. There are solutions to this, ie sump pumps, ‘bathtub’ engineering, etc – expensive and risky. Determine the height of these two connections before you buy the lot (this is important).
Electric and Natural Gas.
Electric feeds up through footingsThese hook ups are simple and straight forward. Locating your house electric and gas meters nearest these connections is less expensive, but if not possible or desired the cost of extending the lines is not terrible. If it can be avoided (and it usually can’t) don’t run any services under a paved driveway. Some areas in the Comox Valley do not have gas, but most do.
Phone, Cable, Satellite.
Telephone line covered in sandThese hookups are also simple and straight forward. The same issues as with electric and gas apply. As far as fancy hook ups like fiber optic and the like, who can predict how information technology will change. We recommend installing wiring chases (empty piping) that can be used for any future upgrade if desired. Installing this system at the construction stage is a minimal expense, and could be expensive after construction is finished.
It is often worth while to dig a ‘test’ pit before construction. This will help determine where the ‘undisturbed ground’ level is (a structure must sit on suitable bearing ground). There is no way to fully determine this ahead of time, and we as the builder will make certain assumptions as to the cost of building the footings, foundation, drainage etc, based on experience, but if the situation underground means cost over runs they are the lot owners’ responsibility. If there are serious concerns about a lot, consider digging a test pit before purchasing the lot (with the owners’ permission of course).
OK let’s say you’ve got a great empty lot – let’s figure out what we can build on it …